As Featured in Belonging Again by O.G. Roe

The Authority Circle

O.G. Rose
4 min readJul 17, 2021

It’s rational not to trust authorities we require to be rationally informed.

Photo by Jason Wong

1. We require institutions, experts, and authorities.

a. See “27 December 1946” by George Orwell. Also, the short story “Ludwig” by O.G. Rose.

2. Institutions, experts, and authorities sometimes take advantage of people, make mistakes, and the like.

a. See “The Opioid Crisis,” “Gulf of Tonkin,” “The Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” “The Replication Crisis,” etc.

3. It can be rational to distrust the institutions, experts, and authorities we require to be rational, but it is rarely clear when we should distrust them (and which), seeing as we probably need the institutions, experts, and authorities to help us figure this out — which puts us in a vicious circular problem.

a. I will call this problem “The Authority Circle,” hinting at Heidegger’s “Hermeneutic Circle,” and it is a kind of “Nash Equilibrium.”

4. To break the “Authority Circle,” we must act “nonrationally” and perhaps trust authorities we have reason not to trust, which means we must make ourselves vulnerable.

a. The “nonrational” is distinct from “irrational”: it is an action that transcends the simple binary of “rational versus irrational” and cannot be understand as simply one or the other. If the majority cannot handle “nonrational vulnerability,” democracies could be in trouble.

5. “Small and near systems” are easier to “nonrationally trust” than “large and distant systems.” Trusting the US Federal Government (which controls the military, exists hundreds of miles away, and is shrouded in bureaucracy) is much more difficult than trusting government entities I can visit, personally meet, and the like. Similar logic applies to scientific institutions, colleges, and so on. This is not to say “large and distant systems” have no role and shouldn’t exist, but it is to say that the “Authority Circle” will prove harder to penetrate.

a. Do note that “ruling powers” could use the fact that we “must nonrationally trust them” to manipulate us, a possibility which makes it even more rational not to trust them (as we easily must).

b. If “What Does Religion Have to Do With Game Theory?” by O.G. Rose is correct that religion has helped society engage in “nonrational action” (without which society would collapse), perhaps it is not by chance then that the “Church” and the “State” have often worked together. Religions have perhaps helped people “trust in a State which people have reason not to trust” by framing the State as “doing God’s work,” as “expressing God’s Will,” and so on — perhaps religions have proven pivotal in helping societies manage the “Authority Circle.” Also note that perhaps we have hoped that “autonomous rationality” could “fill this hole” left by the decline of religion, but such is impossible (as discussed throughout O.G. Rose).

c. If “large and distant systems” are necessary, then it will likely prove necessary that we learn to live with the dilemma of the “Authority Circle,” which is existentially unsettling.

6. Considering Globalization and Pluralism, “small and near systems” are likely no longer possible as they once were (at least not without devastating results).

a. See “The Rationality of Invincibility and Self-Destruction” by O.G. Rose.

7. We must learn to “nonrationally trust” systems, which might be too existentially unnerving for the majority to handle (and for good reason, do note, given legacies of manipulation). However, when there wasn’t reason to question authority thanks to “sociological givens” or institutional legitimacy, people did not so much “consciously extend trust” to institutions, systems, etc., but rather just “trusted in living” (“thoughtlessly”), which is much less existentially difficult — though a state at risk of manipulation.

8. As “sociological givens” collapse and we gain reason to question authority, the problem of “The Authority Circle” will become “vivid” to more people, causing anxiety and opposition.

a. If the majority cannot handle this dilemma of the “Authority Circle” today, most will likely vote rationally against authorities, authorities which are necessary for informed action and yet might indeed manipulate.

10. Democracies will probably consume themselves.

a. It doesn’t follow that therefore totalitarian and/or overly-centralized systems aren’t worse.

b. Perhaps the “Authority Circle” is a reason history repeats? Perhaps the only way to “fix” the problem is with war (to “clean the slate,” in line with the thinking of Mancur Olson in The Rise and Decline of Nations). Hard to say.

Episode #29: Ludwig and the Authority Circle



O.G. Rose

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